Delhi’s Hazardous Air: Pollution and a Foam-Covered River

Delhi’s back to its usual hustle despite the hazardous air and a strange foam floating in the Yamuna river.

Air Pollution in the Capital

The city’s got a reputation for being super polluted, and it’s business as usual this month, even though the government promised to fix things. The air quality index (AQI) on Monday was 336, which is down from Thursday’s scary 509 but still pretty dangerous, says IQAir.

Kids headed to school wearing masks after a two-week shutdown to keep them safe from the pollution. Meanwhile, Hindu devotees went ahead with their festival rituals, taking dips in the river despite the weird white foam that authorities say is toxic.

The foam’s from waste and sludge, according to a former Delhi government advisor. To deal with it, the city’s water board is spraying a chemical that’s safe to eat but not great for your health if you happen to swallow it.

Return to Normalcy

Delhi’s Environment Minister announced that construction work for public projects could restart, but with rules to stop activities that kick up dust in the air. This decision came after emergency measures, like banning construction work, were relaxed as the air quality improved.

Experts say the air should get better in the next couple of days as the wind picks up speed, according to the government’s air quality alert system.

The Pollution Problem

Winter’s when pollution in Delhi gets worse. The slow winds trap all the bad stuff from vehicles, industries, and farmers burning waste in neighboring states. On Monday, a study found that vehicles were the biggest culprit behind tiny, harmful particles floating in the air.

These particles, known as PM2.5, were 51% from vehicle emissions along a major road, which is way up from 27% and 32% in the past two days, according to experts working with the Delhi government.

PM2.5 levels stayed above 128 micrograms per cubic meter since Sunday, as per the federal pollution board. Although it’s down from the peak of 300 on Nov. 5, it’s still way above the safe limit of 15 set by the World Health Organization for a whole day’s exposure.